Texas's At-large Congressional Seat - History of At-large Seats

History of At-large Seats

From its admission to the Union in 1845, Texas has had single-member congressional districts; the first congressional delegation consisted of two House members in single member districts. This remained the case until after the Civil War and Reconstruction when Texas was awarded 4 seats in 1869 and two more in the 1870 census. As a result of the expansion from 4 to 6 seats, the two new seats were designated as At-Large and were elected statewide, so that each citizen elected three Members of Congress (one from their district and two statewide). By the elections of 1874, the legislature did redistrict the state into six single member districts, although they were not of equal population.

The Texas Constitution of 1876 required that the Legislature pass a redistricting plan during the first session after the publication of the decennial national census of the population. However, the Legislature sometimes did not follow through on this obligation.

After the 1880 decennial census, Texas had the largest percentage gain in its congressional apportionment, from 6 members to 11. The legislature, in conformity with the state constitution adopted 11 single-member districts for the 1882 elections. Texas received additional congressional seats as a result of the 1890 Census and 1900 Census but quickly adopted single- member districts. After the 1910 Census, as a result of which, Texas received two additional seats and rather than redraw the districts, they were added as at-large seats. They remained at-large seats until the 1918 elections. The legislature decided to redraw the state's 18 districts almost at the end of the decade in an effort to punish Rep. A. Jeff McLemore of Houston for his opposition to President Woodrow Wilson (a fellow-Democrat) based on Wilson's decision to seek U.S entry into World War I. McLemore and fellow Houstonians Daniel E. Garrett (also an At-Large congressman) and Joe H. Eagle were all drawn into the 8th congressional district.

As Texas received no additional seats until 1931, there was no need to redistrict. In 1931, with three more seats alloted to Texas, the legislature waited until 1933 to redraw the districting plan. "This resulted in the under-representation of the people in those districts where population grew faster than the rest of the state. The failure to redistrict favored the rural areas at the expense of Texas's growing urban centers. The latter's faster population growth meant they deserved additional seats in the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress."

Read more about this topic:  Texas's At-large Congressional Seat

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